Why MDMA should be regulated, by Anne-Marie Cockburn (Martha’s mum)

At 11.20 a.m. on the 20th of July 2013, I got the phone call that no parent wants to receive. A stranger told me that ‘my 15-year-old daughter was gravely ill and they were trying to save her life’. Nothing can prepare you for a moment like that and luckily most people will never get to know how this type of loss feels. I’ve heard it said that losing a child is the ultimate burglary and for the past six years it has felt as though I’m still hoping for my girl to come home. Of course, I know she won’t, but it’s as though every cell in my body is programmed to being Martha’s mum and they’ve yet to find their new purpose.

So, my reality is that one minute I was a single mum to a beautiful 15-year-old daughter who was three months away from her 16th birthday, and the next I was childless and alone. A bereaved single mother. Those words choke me as I type them – I don’t relate to them because I simply don’t want them to be true.

I always worried that something would happen to me and that Martha would be left motherless – but never, ever did it occur to me that she’d go first. Seeing your gorgeous child’s photo beneath an horrific headline on the front page of all the newspapers is the most hideous, surreal experience. I just couldn’t believe it – the adrenaline and diazepam kept me numb for the first few weeks, and in time I reluctantly came back down to earth and started to search through the wreckage of my old life, in order to find answers to help try to make sense of what had happened. But it doesn’t make sense and it never will.

As a parent you do everything you can to help guide your child through life – ‘have you got sunscreen on, did you eat your lunch, don’t forget your bike helmet’ – and as they get a little bit more freedom you hope that everything you’ve taught them up to that moment will be enough to see them home safely every day. But lurking in every community is a danger that I was so blissfully ignorant of, a danger so widespread that it’s become the biggest black market on planet earth, a danger that I naïvely didn’t think related to ‘a family like mine’. How wrong I was – how clueless and ignorant. I shake my head at my former self and wonder why I had this opinion. Well, I’ve learned the hard way and I’ve learned very quickly what I should have known then.

My precious girl’s life was wiped away within two hours of swallowing half a gram of white powder that turned out to be 91% pure MDMA – I’ve been told it was enough for 5–10 people. Martha died from an accidental overdose at exactly 2.17 p.m. on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon. Just like that.

My girl truly loved life, but she was curious as many teenagers are. Martha wanted to get high, but she didn’t want to die. No responsible parent wants either, but you’d prefer one of those options to the other. That is why I want MDMA to be legally regulated. Plain and simple. Twelve people die every single day in the UK from a devastating drug-related death. This means twelve more families have to live with the agonising reality that their loved one’s death was preventable.

No drug is made safer by leaving it unregulated on the black market. Under the current system, whether you’re 5 or 55 you can get easy access to pretty much any substance you want – there is no request for ID, there is no enquiry as to your health, or concern for your wellbeing. The laws are supposed to keep us safe – but the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 isn’t fit for purpose. Drug prohibition has achieved exactly the opposite of what it was set up to do. Therefore, I believe that it is time for our government to be more visionary and to look at new approaches in order to start to truly control and regulate all drugs, including MDMA.

The difference between a poison and a medicine is the dose. Had Martha taken something that was licensed, labelled with a list of ingredients and recommended dosage, she’d still be alive today. My vision is for a legal regulatory model that is for those aged 18+. Under this model even if a younger person inadvertently got their hands on something, at least they could make a more informed decision. I don’t want the world to lose another Martha and that is why I tirelessly campaign for legal regulation.